Every summer, 25 street children make their way from Mongolia’s capital, Ulan Bator, to the mountains of Gorkhi-Terelj National Park.
There, the children between three and 16 spend a week with youth volunteers from around the world who teach them English, music and art.
The annual Mongolia Summer Camp is the brainchild of Stephanie Seow, 24, a Singaporean set on changing the lives of the country’s street children.
Stephanie learnt of the harsh reality thousands of children face on Mongolia’s city streets, when she was 19. For many, days are spent resorting to crime to survive, while nights are spent curled up against hot water pipes in the city’s sewers.
Some children get picked up by shelters. But even they, according to Stephanie, aren’t necessarily in the clear. Loneliness and physical fights between children are part of day-to-day life in many shelters.
Believing that loneliness is the great poverty, Stephanie began devising a camp that would not only educate but love, inspire and give support to street children.
Since 2010, she has led three teams of 10-12 volunteers to Mongolia. She runs the camp with support from local NGO Mongolian National Centre of Child Rights.
Through activities like horseback riding and hiking, the children get to experience accomplishment, a first for many of them.
The upshot of this, according to the NGO, has been happier, more hopeful children.
Stephanie hopes to one day grow the camp into a boarding school. For now, her summer camp is a powerful first step to changing the lives of these children.
Text and pictures courtesy of Stephanie Seow